It’s hard to believe that the Trust’s tiny rhino miracle named “Maalim”, who arrived in the Nursery as a miniature, and who celebrated his 1st birthday on the 17th December 2009 is, in fact, the same animal that came in when just 2 days old just over a year ago. Undoubtedly born premature, he was immediately abandoned by his rhino mother and rescued by a KWS Ranger of the same name. A caravan aircraft was sent down to collect “an orphaned rhino calf” about whom we had been alerted, so imagine our surprise when a curious specimen who could have fitted into a lady’s handbag arrived in the Nursery! We never expected such a prem baby who should still have been in his mother’s womb to even survive, let alone thrive, but thrive he has from day one, and today is a very sturdy perfectly normal rhino yearling with passion for a Mattress!
From the onset Maalim was hooked on his sleeping mattress. Being a rhino, and as such extremely sensuous, his love of the mattress was instant and all consuming, obviously a long shot from being dumped by his mother on baked stony Tsavo murrum and left in the burning sun until his skin resembled a wizened orange. By contrast, the mattress was soft and spongy, and he could sink into it, so it was delicious to sleep on. The Mattress even superceded his love of the four hourly bottle of milk, so much so that he would only take his milk feed once he was settled on the Mattress! And since, upon arrival, his skin was so dry and flaking, an added bonus was a daily massage of salve to soften and moisturize it, something that took place on the Mattress just before bed time. This was an added treat because rhinos relish the sense of touch making the Mattress even more special! Furthermore, whilst he was still so small and frail, his Keeper usually carried the mattress out with him whenever Maalim left his stable to gradually become accustomed to the out-doors of his new surroundings. And so, the Mattress has been an integral part of his life ever since his arrival in the Nursery just over a year ago.
From the outset, it was important that Maalim and his Attendant Keeper embark on the rounds of the adult resident Nairobi Park rhinos’ dungpiles and urinals, a necessity by way of introducing him to all the others, including the Trust’s two orphaned rhinos, blind Maxwell and independent Shida. As he became stronger he also became more active, and could walk further afield so the Mattress could be left behind in his stable. But as soon as he returned in the evening, the Mattress again became all consuming, and it has remained so ever since.
Maalim still sleeps in a stable at night, but because of the constant influx of new elephant orphans during 2009, his sleeping quarters have had to be changed frequently to accommodate newcomers. This would normally greatly upset such a creature of habit but fortunately as long as the Mattress is there, it has mattered not.
As the months past, he was quite happy to have the mattress replace the presence of a Keeper during the night needing nothing more to keep him happy. He has also become more innovative with respect to the beloved Mattress and has found an even more satisfying way of utilizing it. As soon as he enters his night stable, instead of lying on it, he heaves it up and around until lands it on his back like a tent, and once it is in place, he eases his body beneath it, with just his head peeping out at one end, and his tail visible at the other. Once it is exactly to his liking, the tail goes up briefly denoting the blissful sensation of it covering his back, something enjoyable all night long. Come the dawn, he emerges with the Mattress still in place and no doubt would quite like to do the rounds that way, except that it becomes snagged in the vegetation! His Keeper then takes over to escort him on his daily rounds around the rhino dungpiles and urinals, returning the Mattress to his stable!
Maalim and the Mattress is a source of amusement and fascination for us all, and the transformation from a premature tiny specimen that looked nothing like a rhino, to the handsome toddler he is today, is a source of great pride and satisfaction for us all!